Borderline Cinema

The following contributed article isn’t standard, cheery TC fare, but I think it needs to be printed. I print it in the form it was received, with minimal changes to punctuation and text. The contributor wishes to remain anonymous. You have been warned.

There has been much debate in these pages, and in the film & comic magazines, about censorship, certification, and the damage done to material by ‘censoring’ offending bits (for example, the razor blade sequences in “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” or the ‘flip you’ in “Repo Man”). It is very difficult to agree on the grounds for cutting or even if there are grounds, if the integrity of the material suffers.

At least, that is how I would have summarised things yesterday. Yesterday, I could not conceive of any material being COMPLETELY unsuitable for viewing. There is a world of difference between foul language / exploding latex heads and the video I saw last night. It is one thing to see Leatherface chew hippies with chainsaws. This is special effects, clever editing, acting, FANTASY. It is quite another to witness the real thing.

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve been there! You’re thinking that you can handle it, that you’ve seen just about everything and that you wouldn’t be distressed. Wrong. I discovered that I couldn’t imagine the real thing. I’ve never witnessed anything stronger than violence on TV news. But to actually see such monstrous acts performed on a living human in front of the camera? Are you beginning to understand me?

I watched a woman beaten and tortured until she wept. I saw her raped with objects designed to cause intense pain. I looked at her, cowering in the corner, shivering and crying. That was 10 minutes into the film. My notes stopped with the words ‘Shit, this is for real’. I felt like I was riding an emotional roller-coaster – I couldn’t get off and was powerless to intervene. That I was fascinated by the total lack of respect for human life is an indication of it’s ‘power’. It’s ‘purity’. It’s hate. After they had beaten, humiliated and disfigured her for life, I had to deal with the realisation that the people who took part in it are really sick fucks, probably beyond help, and the rest of us must ABSOLUTELY be protected from this.

My apologies if I glamourise this in any way; it was genuinely appalling and whatever language I use to describe it can not do my horror justice…

[ I recall seeing something similar myself once; to be more accurate, 25 seconds of it before I realised what it was and hit the STOP button. I wanted to watch on, and try to find some evidence it was all a sick joke – I don’t think I’d have found any.

The whole thing brings up quite a few points that deserve to be answered. Where is the line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ violence? I can handle most things, as long as I know that it didn’t ‘really’ happen – I’m quite happy to cheer when people get torn apart, be it by zombies, hooks on the end of chains or demons – but anything that smacks of reality, and I’ll sit in stony silence. I remember seeing on the news, footage of Israeli soldiers taking boulders and using them to break the legs of Palestinian demonstrators. That shocked & frightened me far more than just about anything I’ve seen on video or film.

The closer something gets to reality, the worse it is. I don’t find psychos with masks on stalking girls entertaining, because such things HAPPEN. Rape scenes, no matter what the context of them, give me no entertainment at all. REAL violence of any sort has a very good chance of making me reach for the off switch.

All of which gives the lie to the much repeated statement that watching violence leads to a ‘desensitisation’ in some way. True, it diminishes the appeal of the same thing, but ONLY on screen. The ‘peeled body’ in “Hellraiser” was shocking; by the time “Hellbound” appeared, it was ‘oh look, a peeled body’. It is, as mentioned above, an astonishingly different thing to see it for real. I don’t think there can be any justification for showing REAL violence on REAL people as entertainment.

From here, it’s a short step to the taboo subject of snuff movies. The general standpoint of most genre publications is that they don’t exist. The 25 seconds I saw were fucking close. If there’s anyone out there who has seen one, and STILL feels that censorship is a bad thing, I’d like to hear from them – complete anonymity will naturally be preserved.

Apologies if any of the above is a little incoherent. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. I, too, felt that there was nothing more that could shock me, that I’d seen it all. It was only by accident – I was given the wrong tape – that I came across the film at all. The brief glimpse I had of it left me, for the first time ever in my life, NEEDING a drink. It was BEYOND anything even my imagination could come up with. Nightmares, from which I’d wake up shaking, and fumbling for the radio switch, were amateur in comparison.

There can be no excuses. To watch such a film proves, beyond all reasonable doubt, that you are sick. Not even the ‘release’ argument holds good – people who need such a channel for their energies don’t need an outlet, they need help. Certain things do not qualify as entertainment. The deliberate infliction of pain on unwilling human beings is one of them, and it has no place in the splatter genre, or in society as a whole.